URGENT EXPLORATIONS: Doing Our Homework – Lesson 4: Enterprise

What is enterprise? It is a starship. It is a shuttle spacecraft. “It is a purposeful or industrious undertaking (especially one that requires effort or boldness).” For the discussion here, it is all three. The last definition clearly relates to what I consider the grit of the exploration ethic; effort and boldness.  In the image on the left, the shuttle Enterprise is posing for a “photo-op” with NASA officials and most of the crew of the Star Trek TV series; a clear example of “true grit.”

As most of us know, the shuttle Enterprise was the first shuttle, but it would never be launched to go into Earth orbit. It was a design configuration and test vehicle that helped confirm that our glorious space shuttles would, in fact, make historic achievements for the space sciences and low Earth orbit technology. None of this happened without a great deal of effort and boldness.

Before the shuttle there was Apollo, and with a great deal of effort and boldness, NASA, the aerospace industry, and the people of this nation put men on our Moon. The image on the right of Astronaut Alan Bean of the Apollo 12 mission certifies the tremendous value of those bold efforts. Without enterprise, successful space exploration and the evolution of a spacefaring civilization has only a small chance of success.  So, let’s do some homework on the process.


Enterprise, as defined above has been ever-present in Earth’s civilization, but with considerable variability.  We are here, at this time, on Earth and in space because of enterprising and innovative humans who have moved us forward.  We have done this in spite of long periods of war and economic collapse. We have also accomplished progress despite superstitious and punitive political and theological movements. Even though they regarded some enterprising people and movements as defiant or sacrilegious, those people and groups persisted. I attribute that persistence to the evolutionary imperative to explore.

Right now, humankind faces serious economic and leadership challenges albeit there is an abundance of enterprising individuals and organizations. They are both private and public, and they seek to continue to move us forward and out into space. Reactionary attitudes and policies that are labeled as conservative seek to stall that progress except for some of the elite.  Unfortunately, on a world-wide scale, the elite rather just ride the wealth wave and never ever support enterprise unless it directly enriches their coffers.  Despite that, history shows that many of the elite in the past were the instigators of enterprising explorations that helped colonize and enrich this entire planet. We need to revive that attitude and support.  In the past, those esteemed public and private figures saw both profit and benefit in reaching out into the unknown.  That exists today, but is essentially disorganized.  I say disorganized, because like in the past, these courageous and enterprising efforts need solid guidance and leadership to insure success for all and not just the few.

The eagerness of our industry to press forward into space is encouraging and most welcome.  This should be globally supported by national leaders, and that is beginning to happen.  Regardless, that leadership must have a plan that is far more aggressive and structured than simply a program of encouragement for the eager private sector. This, as far as our nation is concerned, is a bit tattered. Quite frankly, it suffers from far too many cooks in the kitchen. The head chef should be NASA with solid advice and support from the scientific community.  For this to happen, the head chef needs to be granted greater authority and responsibility by the supportive elite; our national leadership.  This is only partially in place at this moment, and that is what gives the impression of a “tattered” program.  Remember, enterprise insists upon both effort and boldness.  There is plenty of effort, but variable boldness in both finance and leadership.  We must bolster boldness now.

There is lots of talk and some action on enabling more international joint space ventures.  This is the ideal concept of enterprise and the exploration ethic.  For this to become a reality of action and progress the key global leaders need to agree and move forward with an international space exploration program. Ideas, designs, research, staff and costs are shared.  We set warfare aside; permanently substituting spacefare in its place.  In doing this we enhance global enterprise and in accomplishing that,  we enhance global opportunity and peace.  The challenge here is to develop a global ego that replaces national egos; call it Earthling pride.

There is a model for all the above, and it passes over the heads of all of us regularly. The International Space Station is a living, breathing example of international enterprise and should be joyfully regarded as the keystone to a globally bold effort to reach out and explore. We can, we shall “boldly go, where no human has gone before.” Now that is Enterprise of all three kinds!


Image of shuttle Enterprise and supporters: Courtesy of NASA

Image of Astronaut Alan Bean and the Apollo 12 mission: Courtesy of NASA

Explore posts in the same categories: Deep Space Explorations, Enterprise, Humankind and Exploration, Scientific Research

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